One of the things more common amongst some church folk today is to see personal involvement in a Christian community as being optional.
Many assert that they can get just as close to God out of going on a hike, or reading and reflecting, or going fishing etc.
Some assert that being involved in a local church sometimes is even more distracting and detriment to their experiencing God than going on a nature hike or fishing than they are at church.
I get it.
Being in church is not easy.
Trying to do church with people we may not agree with, people we may not like, people downright disagreeable is hard.
It really is difficult and painful to try to do church with folks in the church.
But that's just the thing.
That's where we're supposed to exercise and put to practice love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
It is there that we can demonstrate to a world that knows all about division and isolation that the people of God and the church really is different because of Jesus.
I readily admit up front that most expressions of the church fail miserably in this department, that we really are not at all different than what the world experiences. And there are too many examples of when the world does acceptance, peace, and welcome better than the church does.
Having said those things, one's engagement with a local community of believers is not an option in the Bible. That's why we are called the body of Christ. We need each other. We belong together.
You see, being involved with a body of believers is not about you experiencing God. Christianity is not about personal experience.
It's about being and doing what we have been called to be - the church. This is not an option. This is God's bidding. This is God's command.
Saying that one's involvement with a community of believers is optional is akin to saying that going home for married people is optional...you may be able to get away with this once in a while, but you won't stayed married long if that's the norm.
As difficult and painful the community life can be, that is exactly where we are to exercise our faith.